Dossam’s Greatest Hits

Cover art for INCARNATE

One of the most important aspects of INCARNATE is the music: the way characters feel about it, respond to it, and grow from it.

Music is powerful. It can instruct, affect moods, and warn you when something scary is about to happen in a movie. Most of us listen to music every day. Some even make music. It’s an intrinsic part of our lives.

Before INCARNATE begins, music is what saves Ana. It’s the only thing that keeps her going while living with an abusive mother. It’s what she turns to for comfort and snatches of happiness. Throughout the series, Ana’s relationship with music grows into something more mature, but that fundamental desire for music never changes.

Ana’s primary source of music is Sam and his compositions. In honor of his works, I’ve created this page. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with Dr. Gabrielle Harvey, who not only vetted all the musical passages in INCARNATE, ASUNDER, INFINITE, and PHOENIX OVERTURE (all mistakes are my own), but was willing to write descriptions of several of Sam’s pieces for me. She did an incredible job and I couldn’t be more grateful and pleased with how they turned out. Now if only they were real!

Sam composed pieces in honor of each of the fifteen years of the Range calendar. Here are a few of them:

Year of Fire –
Caldera is an orchestral tone-poem in five sections, musically portraying the story of the discovery of the caldera.

Year of Hunger –
Hunger – Work for small chamber orchestra (flute, oboe, horn, tympani, and strings) with spoken narration, excerpts taken from diaries of the time.

Year of Souls –
Liturgy of Souls – Work for soprano and tenor soloists, choir, and orchestra. Piece alternates between orchestra alone, soloists with orchestra, and choir with orchestra. Some sections have deliberately simple melodies, to enable the audience to join in singing with the performers.

Year of Dreams –
Dreams – 8-voice choir singing open vowels without text, accompanied by clarinet, viola, and cello. Unusual harmonic language for Sam focusing on the open sound created by the use of perfect fourths & fifths.

Year of Stars –
Dossam’s 2nd Piano Concerto for solo piano and chamber orchestra is commonly known as the Star Concerto (though that was not its original name) because it was composed during the 200th Year of Stars and first performed during the late-summer meteor shower.

Year of Metal –
Symphony of Metal – Composed in honor of and in collaboration with Stef, this is one of Dossam’s few excursions into computerized music. The piece is a single-movement work about twenty minutes in length, for percussionist, pianist, and pre-recorded sounds controlled by computer. Dossam and Stef collected recordings of various sounds from around Heart: wind chimes, engines, doors opening and closing, sounds from the metal-workers, sounds from the streets and marketplaces. Though the percussion part and the piano part remain the same, the computer randomizes the order of the recorded sound so that no two performances of this work are identical.

Year of Songs –
Dossam has composed a number of works inspired by the Year of Songs. Most popular is “Daybreak”, his setting of a cycle of six poems by Sine, celebrating the natural beauty of the landscape around Heart. The cycle is for soprano or tenor and lute. A second well-loved work is his Songs of Childhood: a collection of traditional songs from the beginning of Heart’s history, arranged for choir and percussion.

Year of Light –
Dance of Light – for shawms, recorders, and drums. Dossam uses the melody & rhythms of two traditional Heart dances from before the advent of music notation or recording equipment. The piece is characterized by driving ostinato figures in the drums, while the shawms and recorders play the melodies sometimes in counterpoint and sometimes in unison.

Year of Ice –
Glaciers – Another of Sam’s rare Stef-inspired forays into computerized music. For this composition, Sam recorded melodies on older instruments such as shawms, viols, rebecs, and small bagpipes, then used the computer to combine and distort the sounds. The result is a strangely haunting soundscape of slow-moving intertwined melodies.

Year of Darkness –
Darkness – Four-movement work for brass quintet (two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba). There is some debate over whether the four movements are supposed to represent the four seasons. Dossam claims to not remember.

Year of Binding –
Words – A work for five singers and piano, written in honor of the library for the celebration of the 100th Year of Binding. All five voices sing separate texts, interwoven in rich contrapuntal texture. The sources for the lyrics are primarily the writings of Sine, Orrin, and Whit, but Dossam drew quotations from over 40 different works of poetry, fiction, biography, and science. This piece, often considered one of Dossam’s finest, is seldom performed live because of the extreme difficulty of the vocal parts. There are not always five highly-trained singers of the required voice types available in every generation.

The Quindec Dances – Set of fifteen dances in honor of the Year of Dance, originally written for lute, but later arranged for a number of different combinations of instruments, including arrangements for guitar, for four-hand piano duet, for string quartet, and for trumpet solo with piano.

Awakening – A duet for flute and piano. Inspired by the natural sounds of the wilderness around Heart… flowing water, hissing steam vents, different bird songs, insect & frog sounds.

Honey – A short, sweet minuet for flute and marimba, dedicated to Sarit and her apiary.

Blue Rose Serenade – Serenade for flute and lute, characterized by shifting meters and the use of unconventional modes, rather than the standard major or minor keys.

Ana Incarnate – Fantasia in the style of an improvisation. A waltz meter predominates throughout much of the work, but sections of the piece are in 4/4 time, 6/8 time, and 9/8 time. The four-note theme which forms the basis of this work is used in a number of different ways: sometimes presented melodically in inversion or retrograde form, sometimes used as the harmonic foundation. Originally written for piano, the piece was later arranged for flute & piano duet.

Phoenix Symphony –
Mvmt. 1 Vision (First sighting of the bird) Work opens with a brass fanfare with echoes of the phoenix’s call in the woodwinds, and majestic sweeping melodies in the whole orchestra.
Mvmt. 2 Melancholy (Representing aging and the approach of death) Slow and meditative, with melodies being passed between the strings and the woodwinds, and prominent solos for cello and horn.
Mvmt. 3 Immolation Extremely fast, agitated running notes in the string strings echo the fury of the flames while a keening piccolo solo rises above, and syncopated bursts of rhythm are heard from percussion and trumpets. The music lessens in intensity as the fire dies around the egg, and eventually resolves into a soft, haunting hymn played by flute, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon. The movement transitions without break into:
Mvmt. 4 Rebirth The brass fanfares from the first movement return, first softly, then growing louder and louder over crescendoing tympani rolls. Woodwinds and strings play snatches of a new melody, which is heard at first only in fragments, but becomes more and more complete until the whole orchestra is playing in triumphant unison.

All music descriptions are copyright to Dr. Gabrielle Harvey. Do not reproduce without permission.